The Daily Whim

The Daily Whim

Mon. May 05, 2003

Announcing: PhotoDude Labs, An Online Print Store

Announcing: PhotoDude Labs, An Online Print Store – I’ve had a web site since April of 1996, and now that the dot-com money making craze is over … I’ve decided to start selling stuff on the web!

It’s not the culmination of a grandly stupid marketing plan, it’s just been a long road to this point. But as of today, there are 48 images online that you can purchase as an archival print, in 8.5×11, 11×14, and 13×19 inch sizes. They are currently evenly distributed in four categories, and represent many of my best images. But you might also consider it a sampler of what’s to come, as I expect to double the inventory over the next couple of months.

There’s also a page About the Prints, and for the geeky, a rather verbose FAQ that covers Equipment & Software, Image Processing, Printing Details, and Creating a Print Store with Moveable Type.

There are lots of web logs out there with a “tip jar,” hoping you’ll find their efforts worthy of a small donation. It’s one of the neighborly aspects of the web that I like. Well, we may work in defined monetary increments at PhotoDude Labs, but we give you something tangible for your money. And trust me, your purchase definitely supports my continued efforts here.

So now you know everything required to buy a print (what, you’re still here?), but of course, there’s more to the story, as it is the culmination of a couple of dreams.

Once upon a time, in a land before PhotoDude (the nickname), one commercial photographer created what he saw as a series of works that needed to be hung in an art gallery. So he made the rounds, and was roundly rebuffed. Perhaps with good reason.

Nonetheless, he longed for a way to display his work, as do most creative types. It was the summer of 1995, and he heard rumblings about this thing called the World Wide Web, where most anyone with a computer could place their words and pictures. By the start of 1996 he had a computer, got connected to the Internet, and one fateful day he clicked the menu item in Netscape 1.2 that said “View Source.”

“Hmmm. Well, I guess I’ll be hiring someone to do that.”

But the Fickle Gods of Freelance Fate cast a monthlong silence upon him, and out of sheer boredom, he began to learn HTML. To his own amazement, by April 14, 1996, he had his online gallery, complete with poorly scanned images and a most questionable design premise (7 years later, he leaves it in place to keep him humble). But By Gum, he had his online gallery, he “hung” that series of works no one else would, and people actually visited.

But rather than simply become a place to hang random images, the true power of the web was revealed to him when the Olympics came to town. The combination of words and images about a current event garnered him massive traffic (such as it existed on the web in the summer of ’96). He continued this personal trend with Red Rock Road Trip, and eventually these new fangled things they call “web logs.”

Over seven years of doing so, he not only came to write about himself in the third person (stop it!), I never ceased to be amazed that tens of thousands of people viewed my “work” (play) every month, far more than ever would in a physical gallery.

And during those seven years, I wondered … “can I make some money from this?” Though I have gotten many jobs from this site, the obvious answer was to sell prints online. Which brings us to the second dream, the dream of a digital darkroom with archival output. For most of those years, it was just a dream. Oh, I’ve talked about it, drooled about it, and talked about it some more. But I never committed the cash, waiting for the price point to drop, and for the disposable income to buy into the Digital Loop (all three parts of it).

Then, this January I got the input part of the loop, a Canon D60 (the Nikon 990 is a great camera, and I’ve gotten wonderful prints from it, but it doesn’t qualify as high resolution). In February, I got the middle of the loop, “the engine,” in the form of a new computer with massive quantities of RAM and hard drive space. And finally in early March, I got the output; an Epson 2200 printer that uses 7 archival inks and prints up to 13×19 inches.

Since January, I’ve been chipping away at the mountain of work required to launch PhotoDude Labs (like editing not only over 1,250 Pixel Piles from 2.5 years of digital shooting, but also 15 years of film work). Once the printer arrived, I set about preparing this site in earnest. My goal was March 15th, but as I began to slip past that date … oops, somebody started a war.

Not a good time to launch a print store, I decided, so I used the time to expand the inventory (originally, I was going to launch with maybe 24 images) and work out other issues. I blew my second internal deadline, too (darn those time-sucking clients!), but it’s all just as well. After 7 years, what’s a few more weeks?

So that’s the tale of how I’ve gone about this all backwards. Rather than start a business, and then try to garner market share, I’ve spent seven years developing an audience, and only now have something for them to purchase.

But here’s the contrary wisdom: my site statistics claim this domain totalled over 75,000 visitors generating more than a quarter million page views during the month of April. If just one tenth of one percent of those visitors make a purchase, I’ll be one very happy and busy printer.

So … go make me happy and busy!

Peanut Gallery

1  Noah wrote:

Looks great! Here's hoping it keeps you very happy and busy.

2  PhotoDude wrote:

Thanks, Noah, not only for the kind words, but for your input and inspiration along the way. Hopefully, we won't be digging into each other's pockets.

3  rturner wrote:

Well done! Although my ulterior motive is to see you so busy printing and shipping in the near future that you'll See The Light and won't be so tempted to make comments about lazy donkeys who never add anything to their weblog. One perhaps obvious, but none the less revolutionary aspect of this whole thing we engage in is the ability of some pretty damned good artists to create their own galleries and to hell with the commercial powers that be. Not that they aren't trying like hell to cut the heart out of it anyway with Iraqi playing cards, real estate scams and penis enlargement schemes....

4  PhotoDude wrote:

That lazy donkey hasn't moved in almost two months. During which we had a war, a shuttle crash, and Major Shrill Emissions. What will stir the donkey to speak again? As for artists having the ability to build their own gallery, in some ways it just passes judgement on down the line ... to the person who wants (or doesn't want) to buy their wares. It used to be some gallery owner or curator who passed judgement, before the buying public would get to pass theirs. Today, we've removed the middle man from the rejection process, and can now get it straight from the consumer. My point is, the fields of art, music, theater, etc. are just as highly competitive as they've always been. Only a very few will meet even their own internal goals of "success," nevermind those of the art world at large. And that world is still largely focused on the gallery scene (or the major record labels, or Broadway, etc.), and I don't know if that will ever change. But I think you're right, eventually, the web will become a primary market for a lot of artists to sell their wares, whereas now I think the perception is that it is an "alternative" market, somehow of slightly lesser value. I don't think we're there yet, but look at how far we've come just in the past 7 years.

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